Dr. Ronald L. Jenkins, professor of biology at Samford University since 1988, died April 27 after a long battle with cancer. A memorial service is scheduled for Monday, April 30, at 7 p.m. at Edgewood Presbyterian Church in Homewood, Ala. Samford will hold a memorial service Tuesday, May 1, at 4 p.m. in Reid Chapel.
Dr. Jenkins, 54, was chair of the Department of Biology from 1992 until 2002, taking a leading role in the design of Samford's $27 million Sciencenter that opened in 2001. He was co-author with his Samford colleague, Dr. W. Michael Howell (now retired), of the book Spiders of the Eastern United States: A Photographic Guide. Jenkins and Howell spent almost 10 years and traveled thousands of miles to collect information and specimens to photograph for the 364-page volume, published by Pearson Education, Inc., in 2004.
"He taught his students to take photographs of living creatures instead of preserving them in glass jars," noted Samford Vice President for Business Affairs Bill Mathews. "Both Mike and Ron practiced what you might call 'catch, photograph and release' biology."
Jenkins wrote numerous articles for scholarly publications. His interests and publications spanned the fields of spider ecology, comparative biochemistry, ethnobotany and environmental endocrine disruptors.
A native of Atlanta, Ga., he held the bachelor of science degree in biology from Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., where he was named Alumnus of the Year in 2004. He also held the master of science degree in zoology and Ph. D. in physiology from Auburn University.
Prior to joining Samford, he was an assistant professor in the division of endocrinology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham during 1985-88 and a research biochemist at Veterans Administration Medical Center during 1982-88. He taught biology at Louisiana College in Pineville, La., during 1979-81.
Jenkins took the lead in a number of research grants benefiting the community such as projects to revitalize Shades Creek and to enhance the Oak Mountain Interpretive Center. Active in professional organizations, he served the Alabama Academy of Science as vice president during 2002-03 and president during 2004-05.
Jenkins was active in the Presbyterian Church for many years, and was a Sunday School teacher and elder at Edgewood Presbyterian Church. He was the recipient of one of four Daniel W. Martin Awards presented during the 217th general assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA in 2006. The national award recognized "scientific and technological professionals who demonstrate in their lives that scientific endeavor, science teaching and technological development are all part of God's calling."
Jenkins is survived by his wife, Kitty Noordermeer Jenkins; his son, Ben; daughter, Anna-Lea; mother, Helen Jenkins of Atlanta; and sister, Barbara Jenkins Riddle. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts be made to the Samford Undergraduate Research Program for research in biology, in care of the Department of Biology, Samford University, Birmingham, AL 35229.